7 pitfalls of employee delegation and how to avoid them

In this 6-minute read:

  • Why should you learn to delegate?
  • The difficulties of delegating
  • 7 pitfalls of delegating to employees and how to overcome them

Delegation is a crucial skill for any small business owner who wants to see success. It’s how you develop better employees, manage a better work-life balance, and ultimately grow your business. 

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Sometimes, delegating key tasks can work against you, though. If an employee lacks the proper training, has a bad attitude, is overworked, or if you have unrealistic expectations for the task at hand, the you are setting the process up to fail. 

Let’s discuss the importance of delegating and how you can avoid some common delegation pitfalls so you can help your business achieve continued success as you grow. 

Why should you learn to delegate?

Delegating tasks to your employees has several benefits that extend across your entire business. 

Benefits that delegating offers small business owners:

  • Frees up time spent performing routine tasks so you can focus on larger aspects of the business
  • Enables focus on more strategical work
  • Reduces stress levels
  • Builds trust with employees
  • Develops experience and skills for an employee to eventually take over your job so you can continue to grow your business

happy women discussing a delegated task

Benefits for your employees:

  • Develops their skills and experience
  • Increases their confidence and morale as you involve them more
  • Strengthens their commitment to your business

Benefits for your business:

  • Saves time and money
  • Boosts productivity
  • Increases teamwork among employees
  • Improves efficiency
  • Greater skill levels for employees increase your company’s long-term success

The difficulties of delegating

Delegating isn’t always an easy thing to do. When you’re used to doing something for yourself for so long (as most small business owners do), it can be difficult to give up that control and let someone else take over key tasks.

Ultimately, the reasons it is difficult for small business owners to delegate come down to these three things:

  1. Loss of control
  2. Lack of trust
  3. Poor time management

It’s hard to give up control, particularly when you lack the trust for anyone else to take over important tasks and don’t have the time to make sure employees do it right.

But if you want your business to (and if you ever want to take a break or a vacation), you absolutely must embrace delegation. 

Let’s go over some ways that you can help your employees become the right people to delegate to. 

7 pitfalls of delegating to employees and how to overcome them

There are several things that can cause a delegated task to fail. So, in order to avoid that, you just need to be aware of those pitfalls and how you can prevent them from happening. 

1. Not enough training

When you assign employees a task to complete but they lack the proper training to get the job done correctly, you are setting them up to fail. 

frustrated woman doesn't understand delegated task

Whenever you assign a new task to an employee, especially if it’s one that they’ve never done before, take the time to train them on it properly. 

This will build trust because they will feel that you have prepared them for the additional responsibility, rather than dropping a complicated and vital task in their lap and walking away.

Preparing employees with proper training ensures their success and saves you time in the future as they are able to take over performing key tasks for you moving forward. 

2. Not enough authority

Sometimes, a delegated task requires a certain authority to get the job done. Maybe you need funds secured for a project. Perhaps it is necessary to get the cooperation of people in other departments for a specific job, or perhaps there are legal or regulatory considerations or permissions to be obtained.

If the person you enlist for the task doesn’t have the authority to do carry out the task, you have guaranteed their failure. 

Make sure you delegate to someone with the proper authority to carry out what you need them to do, or delegate that authority to them as well (with the proper training and certifications where needed).

3. Lack of experience

An employee may have the training, general skills, and even the authority they need to get a job done, but they lack experience specific to your company or type of organization and so they shy away from a task. 

A thorough onboarding process can help your employees to become familiar with your organization and with their co-workers. 

This will help them feel more comfortable reaching out to others and getting the assistance they need to perform a delegated task properly without fear of seeming ignorant and failing. 

4. The issue of morale

If an employee feels that you are just delegating a task to them because it’s not desirable and you simply don’t want to do it, the delegation isn’t likely to be successful—or not as successful as it could be. 

This can decrease employee morale and decrease their motivation to perform other tasks to the best of their abilities. 

If you treat every task within your business as if it is important and meaningful (because it is), that will show through to your employees. They’ll be more willing to help with a task when they understand its importance and feel like they are contributing real value to the company. 

On the opposite end of that, if an employee feels they lack the proper skills to get a job done or doesn’t have time to perform the task, they may feel insecure and anxious about it. 

stressed out young man for employee delegation

As noted above, make sure each employee has the training they need to get the jobs done that they are assigned. 

5. Unrealistic expectations

If you expect absolute perfection from a task that you delegated to a new employee, you are setting that employee up for failure (at least in your eyes). 

Furthermore, if you expect that task to be performed exactly as you or a more-experienced manager would do it, you are limiting your employees’ creativity to solve problems on their own. 

You need to learn to accept errors—particularly at first—and allow your employees to grow and solve problems in their own way. Maybe they’ll find a more efficient way of completing key tasks. 

6. Micromanaging

Micromanaging doesn’t help anyone. If you feel you have to babysit your employee every step of the way during a task you assigned them, even after they’ve had the proper training, then you hired the wrong person—or more likely, you are the wrong boss. 

street sign saying my way only for employee delegation

On the other side of that coin, if your employee has the proper skills and training to carry out the task but you can’t stop from watching their every move, they are likely to get frustrated or nervous, and might still fail even if they know how to perform the task properly. 

Learn to step back and lend some trust to your employees. The more you are able to do this, the more confident you will become in them, and they will see that. 

If you find you have a hard time not micromanaging, consider attending a leadership workshop or reading some self-help books on effective business leadership.

7. Reverse delegation

Reverse delegation is when you assign an employee a certain task, they are unable to do it for one reason or another, and then they come back and ask you to do it for them. 

This can happen for a couple of different reasons:

  • Your employee lacks the confidence to get the job done
  • They lack the necessary skills or training to complete the task properly
  • The employee feels overwhelmed and/or actually has too much to do.

Instill confidence in your employees by telling them things like “I know you can do this” and allowing them to figure it out. 

Also, be sure they have the training they need to get the task done, and consider their routine carefully. Maybe they actually DO have too many things to do.

If they come back and ask you to perform the job, consider the factors above. 

If you decide they aren’t over-scheduled and you feel it appropriate, take some time to show them how to perform the task yourself. 

If they continually show reluctance to perform tasks you have prepared them for and they are not over-laden with work, it may be time to find another employee.

Learning to delegate well is an important skill for every business owner. If you remember to provide the proper training your employees need, treat every job like it’s important, and create a friendly and confidence-inspiring atmosphere within your workplace, you’re well on your way to developing great employees who get the job done. 

happy young waitress for employee delegation

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